Terminator Retrospective Part 3

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

“There is no fate but what we make for ourselves” was the mantra for the two original films but Terminator 3 teaches us that, despite the delay, the war between mankind and machines will still be waged. I’ve been a staunch advocate of Terminator 3 since its release in 2003 and I still see many merits in its admittedly inferior but nonetheless invigorating framework.

Cynics can easily perforate holes in the notion of a female T-X but I found it to be refreshing change-of-pace for a femme fatale angle despite its parboiled potential. She enhances her breast size momentarily but she never woos with her assets afterwards. For his signature role, Schwarzenegger hasn’t lost any of his considerable bulk or his self-deprecating humor (the Elton John sunglasses are still a funny sight gag).

In lieu of Edward Furlong and Linda Hamilton, the saviors-of-the-human-race are supplanted with Nick Stahl and Claire Danes. Stahl is a more adroit, sober actor than Furlong who would’ve been a petulant pest again. Moreover Danes is not a precious pin-up or a banshee like Willie Scott from Temple of Doom. She outfoxes John and his paintball gun with her ingenuity.

Fulfilling the prophecy in the 1984 of a fully autonomous defense network system in the guise of Skynet, Terminator 3 is the aggregation of the first two films without lampooning their legacy. I adore the concept that the T-X’s main objective is not John Connor; it’s his safety net of lieutenants in the future battlefield of the 2020’s.

Of course, the film bevels into a carbon copy of Terminator 2’s cat-and-mouse chase between John’s protector and his nemesis but it is not a sluggish retread. The Maximum Overdrive element of the T-X’s oligarchy over other electronic machinery (like cell phones and other vehicles) truly contributes to the dazzling centerpiece of a crane pursuit through downtown Los Angeles. The practical stuntwork of Arnold’s dangling body careening through a building is advisably fortified by virtuoso special effects and whirring sound F/X when the crane overturns forward. Mostow earns his stripes with this sequence. The tussle in the Air Force base’s bathroom sells the conceit that these are megaton machines with heft to them as Arnold and Loken blithely shove each other through stalls.

Rise of the Machines doesn’t get enough credit for corrugating provocative wrinkles into James Cameron’s fait-accompli chronology. Without the backbone of Katherine Brewster (Danes), John Connor would just be a lone wolf; a symbol with no rational reason for perseverance on the nuclear horizon. Lastly, the film is an appropriately downbeat capper to the trifecta with a cliffhanger ending where humanity is basically wiped out as John and Kate are safely encased in an underground VIP fallout shelter. Even with the 12-year interim, Terminator 3 is still a gonzo, dopamine-drenched rollercoaster with its roots deeply engrained in Cameron’s handiwork.


Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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